Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Clean Is Not Enough

In 1978, Fran Lebowitz told People magazine, "When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough."

Nearly four decades later, in the age of the Sterilized City, the quote has surfaced on the side of a building in Chelsea. Specifically, on the Yves luxury glass condo at 18th Street and 7th Avenue, where Core realty has a first-floor office from which they sell more luxury glass condos.

mingum7 posted a photo of the wall to Instagram and wrote: "I'm having trouble thinking Fran Lebowitz would approve of advertising this glass condo. But she must know, right?"


Does Fran know? Would she approve? I also doubt it, but someone will have to ask her.

Either way, the quote is utterly inappropriate for the side of a luxury glass condo, which is all about being antiseptically clean, and not New York, and not enough. We need more than clean.

Cleanliness does not make a city. Real cities are messy. They are dirty--and dirt is fertile, the opposite of sterile.

But the new people keep coming from the rest of the world to live in these sanitary boxes, seeking some semblance of their suburban lives. They say: Walk-ups are cute "but this is just so much better in so many ways. It’s like living in a hotel. Everything’s always convenient, always safe, always clean. You don’t have to worry about gross things. Like mice! And creepy things like that."

They are not--and don't want to be--city people.

inside Yves

May I suggest a few other, more recent New York quotes from Fran Lebowitz to slap on the sides of luxury condos:

"To move to Manhattan, you have to have a rich father. The kids who come here are either rich or are moving here to make money in business, which is a dull kind of kid anyway."

"You can like people with lots of money for certain reasons, hate them for certain reasons, but you cannot say that an entire city of people with lots of money is fascinating. It is not."

"Of all the places in the world that should never have embraced this idea of safety, family values, it is New York. I mean, they have the whole rest of the country."

“America has gotten its revenge on New York, because it’s moved right in. Now it is a mall. That’s the final victory of the suburban sensibility.”


James said...

"America has gotten its revenge on New York, because it’s moved right in. Now it is a mall. That’s the final victory of the suburban sensibility.”

Or, it is vindication for a generation or two that has only known suburbia. The irony is that previous generations spent their time in cities, only wishing to escape to the fantasy of suburban perfection. Now we have a population that sees no reason not to have that simply follow them. We've had it too good, have been sold too many so-called solutions and cannot go back to a simpler time where we paid only the rent, the power & light bill, and the phone bill. We are now billed for things, within other things, that didn't even exist thirty years ago. We finally wrested control of problems and limitations in ways we could not imagine then. Few really want to go back to that, no matter how pure their souls.

The punishment for our neediness is the escalation of cost. Our prices have leapt into the realm of science fiction, and hence, we pay a fortune to live with the pretense that we can still have gritty city lives, which, in fact, many very poor people still live out.
All the rest of it, as Jonathan Franzen onced said, is pure nostalgia. I would add pure romance, but then again I’ve had years to watch it vanish and now feel that one should be able to have a good life over any other consideration. We are over-populated, and it’s catching up. There’s simply less for each of us, unless we are clever.

The antedote for some of this is our collective memory and how we use it to decide what it is we really desire, what it is we need. What indeed?

Dov said...

I bet all those luxury condos have cockroaches.

Pat said...

There was a bit on the TV news recently about how scientists are mapping bacteria on the New York subways and a young woman said "I try not to touch anything in the subway." I wondered why she lives here.

There is a mini-chain here that sells soap and body care products and for a long time they promoted their products by dragging people in off the streets and scrubbing their hands with salt and oil and then rinsing in a large basin. More than once an overenthusiastic salesgirl would say to me, "I'll bet living in New York you feel like washing your hands a lot." And I would merely reply that I am a native and my immune system has something to do here.

AlphabetCity said...

I live in Alphabet City and if people think NYC is not still dirty that is crazy to me. My neighborhood is covered in trash, crackheads, crap, pigeons, and crazy people screaming all over the street. Walking 10 minutes requires constantly crossing back and forth across the street to avoid piles of rotten trash or screaming homeless people. I was just in Austin for work and the differential in cleanliness and trash is astonishing. I love NYC and living here, but to say it is so clean and sterile and suburbanized these days is insane.

John K said...

@Alphabet City, perhaps widen your lens aperture a bit more, and look at Manhattan and New York as a whole. Have you seen how sterile 8th, 9th and 10 Avenues are becoming? Have you walked through the streets of Tribeca, or SoHo, or the West Village these days? The homogenization of people, chains, etc. is stultifying. Yes, parts of the Lower East Side and East Village are still pretty filthy, but what's clear--and it's happening in Brooklyn, parts of Queens (Long Island City, looking at you), Jersey City, Bayonne, etc.--is that hypergentrification is sterilizing everything it touches. It entails a different attitude and relationship to city life, along the lines of suburbanization. I can't speak for Jeremiah but I think this is what he's talking about. This is not the New York City of 2006 or 1996 or 1966, etc. Of course some good things have happened, but I can tell you, having lived in a variety of places over the years, including the suburbs, New York's transformation into a mall version of itself is not a good thing for anyone except tourists, the very rich and Wall Street. I mean, why would anyone want to pay exorbitant prices for the very same thing, minus the racial and ethnic diversity, that they could get in anywhere else in the USA? That's what NYC is turning into.

Brian said...

I am guessing that Fran Lebowitz did authorized use of her name for use in an ad for Core Realty. Also, don't think the Estate of John Lennon authorized ise of hid name and quite for use in the ad either. Maybe Fran can sue.

Brian said...

I meant to say she probably DID NOT give permission.

"Dogblog" said...

Fran's quote has been removed from this site, wonder what happend?